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Can you Have Faith and Doubt/Unbelief at the same time?

You can have faith and doubt at the same time. Unbelief is not the opposite of faith but rather the opposing force of faith. Another way of saying it is; unbelief is the weed that chokes out the growth of faith. Just like a weed can grow next to any fruitful plant so can unbelief grow next to faith.

There are many scriptures that reveal that you can have faith and unbelief at the same time.

When Jesus came down from the mount of transfiguration in Mark 9 He encountered a demon-possessed boy who the disciples could not deliver.

Jesus asked the dad how long this has been happening to him and the dad responded by saying that this had happened since childhood and that the demon had consistently tried to kill the boy.

The dad then says, “if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

When Jesus heard the “if you can” he responded with “if you can believe. All things are possible to him who believes.”

The dad then replied with “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

[Related article: Can God Increase Our Faith? (Biblical Answer)].

Now if the father was incorrect this would have been the perfect time for Jesus to correct him and say something like, “woah that’s not right. You can’t believe and unbelieve at the same time. It’s either one or the other.”

But Jesus didn’t say anything like that. In fact, He didn’t say anything at all but just ended up casting out the demon. This is all recorded in Mark 9 and Matthew 17.

Another instance that reveals that faith and unbelief can be in operation at the same time is when Jesus went to go heal Jairus’s daughter.

Jairus, who was a ruler of the local synagogue, came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his daughter because his daughter was very sick. On the way to Jairus’s house, a man came to him and told him that his daughter was dead so there was no reason to have Jesus there anymore.

Jesus looked at Jairus and said, “fear not, only believe.”

Now, why would Jesus say, “only believe” if you could only do one or the other; believe or unbelieve?

The answer is He wouldn’t! He specifically said “only believe” because it is possible to have belief and disbelief at the same time.

These two passages reveal that unbelief and faith are not an “either-or” they can both be happening simultaneously.

Faith & Unbelief Exaplained

When Jesus gave the parable of the sower He mentioned four grounds that the seed is sown into; (1) the wayside, (2) the rocky ground, (3) the ground with thorns, and (4) the good ground that produces much fruit.

The seed in this parable is the word of God and the ground is the condition of the heart of men (Mark 4:14-15).

The wayside ground represents the heart of the individual who heard the word but simply did not understand it so the word is snatched from them as soon as it lands.

The rocky ground is the heart of the person who has no root in themselves so when trial comes they stumble, meaning they have not taken the time to get rooted and grounded in love and in prayer as Ephesians 5 and as Matthew 26:40-41 say (more on this later).

The ground with thorns is the heart that receives the word of God with the other cares of this life and the care and desire for other things end up choking the word of God so that it is unable to grow to fulfillment.

Then obviously the good ground is the individual’s whose heart understood the word of God, had root in himself, and set his desires only on the things of God, because of this he produced much fruit for the Kingdom.

I mention all of this because this parable is a key to understanding unbelief, faith, and how both of these work in our hearts.

The Bible says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God(Romans 10:17).

And as we previously have seen the word of God is a seed that is sown into our hearts, and if we couple this with Romans 10:17 we see that this seed is a seed of faith, which means that when the word is sown and understood the heart will grow faith automatically. (Related article: Measure of Faith: What it is & How much is it).

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” (Mark 4:26-28)

The only ground that did not grow the seed is the ground of not understanding (Mark 4:13-15). This is very important to understand if we want to have great faith in our lives.

The only thing we need to do to grow great faith is to sow the word of God into our hearts through understanding it, and then learn to clear our ground of anything that is not of the seed of faith. [Related articles: How to Grow in Faith and What a Mustard Seed of Faith Means (And How to Have it)].

The conditions of the ground mentioned in Mark 4, Matthew 13, and in Luke 8 are simply different forms of unbelief.

Let’s go through each one of these grounds and how we can overcome them so that we can see this more clearly.

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The first ground: Not understanding the word of God.

Not understanding the word is the unbelief of ignorance.

Not knowing something is even possible automatically produces unbelief. You cannot believe in something you don’t know is available.

To overcome this we simply need to read the Word of God until we understand it.

The second ground: Having no root in yourself

Jesus said that the person who has no root in themselves is a person who will receive the word with gladness but as soon as they encounter some trial, persecution, or temptation they fall away and stumble.

This is the unbelief of worry and fear.

A perfect example of this is when the disciples were crossing the sea of Galilee with Jesus and they encountered a deadly storm. The disciples repsoned out of fear, while Jesus was asleep on a pillow.

“And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

“Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:38-40).

The disciples faced a trial and instead of responding in faith they responded out of fear and stumbled into unbelief.

Another example of this is when Jesus was about to be taken to die on the cross and the night before he was praying and He told His disciples to pray as well “lest they enter into temptation.”

“Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)

What Jesus meant by “entering into temptation” is that they would give in to the temptation that they experienced, and their temptation in this context is worry and fear.

They would be tempted and tried with fear of losing everything. They have been running with Jesus for three years they gave up everything to follow Him and He is about to be killed. They put all of their eggs in one basket and that basket was about to be crushed right before their eyes and stripped from them.

This is why Jesus told them before He was taken, “Do not let your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). Jesus knew their temptation, trial, and even persecution was going to be difficult this is why He told them this and this is also why He encouraged them to stay awake with Him and pray.

That word “temptation” that Jesus used is the same word used in the gospel of Luke when he was referring to this ground of no root.

“But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.” (Luke 8:13)

So if we put these two passages of scripture together we can see that Jesus revealed a key on how to get root in yourself, and that is through prayer.

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation”

Only through prayer can we strengthen the things of the Spirit and have them trump over the things of the flesh.

This is also why Jesus told the disciples that their spirit is willing but their flesh is weak. Indicating that only through prayer can the flesh submit to the spirit and come into proper alignment.

Prayer is also the only way that we can receive the Father’s love. It is the only way that we can experientially know the love of Christ that passes understanding.

The apostle Paul tells us to be rooted and grounded in love so that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Only through prayer is this possible because we can’t know something that passes knowledge, unless that knowing is experiential and not intellectual.

The third ground: ground of thorns

The ground of thorns is the person whose heart hears the word of God and understands it but they have other desires and cares of this life that end up choking the word.

A perfect example of this is when Jesus told the Jews “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44)

Receiving honor from people is a topic that can be thrown into the “cares of this life and the desire for other things.” This is why Jesus said that they have unbelief because they seek the honor from man and not from God.

In essence, this ground is the ground that is simply caused by people desiring other things than God. This kind of unbelief is anything that gets our attention more than God. This is caused by us getting our eyes off of Jesus and then placing them onto other things.

The only way to overcome this is to learn to walk in the Spirit.

The Bible says that walking in the Spirit is setting our mind on the things of the Spirit just like we use to set our mind on the things of the flesh before we got born again. (Romans 8:5)

[Related article: How to Walk/Live in the Spirit (Complete Guide)].

So as we set our mind on things above and not on the things of this world we will naturally not fall into the trap of unbelief that originates from the cares of this world (i.e. man’s opinions, riches, prestige, etc.), and instead we will automatically be operating in faith.

I hope this article assisted you in your walk with the Lord. If you enjoyed this article, please consider giving a donation of any amount by clicking the button below. The support we receive from you enables The Biblical Foundation to keep all of the resources free and to reach more people with the teachings of the Word of God.

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